Somehow, we survived week one of our first vacation traveling with a newborn without hurting the baby, or ourselves. We arrived in the Dominican Republic with baby and bags, and set up camp quickly after a massive shopping trip at La Sirena (their local super store, like Wal-Mart). But our marriage was tested like never before under the pressure of the unknown. I threatened to go home twice after a scary run in with a centipede at a restaurant E suggested we have dinner al fresco, and an even scarier choking incident after a feeding with Q –I actually contacted JetBlue to switch our tickets home 6 days after the second scare. But after several frantic calls to my mother in Michigan, another to the local doctors on call, and a chance encounter with another first time mother from Germany, we stuck it out through week two. Sunshine, wind and many fruity beverages later, our little family is settling into our island life. Here are a few more lessons learned from the adventure:
- Look around for other children. If they can survive where you are, so will your child.
“Is where you’re going good for children?” some asked. Cabarete, located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, is a family mecca. Aside from local kids that seemed quite happy here, other fair skinned families have relocated from other countries. It’s a big kite surf destination, and since I last visited, there have been several large resorts and condominium development constructed on the beach, all occupied with families of all ages. I watched kids frolic on the beach daily and run in and out of surf shops and beach side restaurants. It reminded me that if these young’ns can survive down there with smiles on their face and not even a sunburn to complain about, then my little Q would be just fine.
- Locals have just as much unsolicited parenting advice as your neighbors back at home.
In New York, I took Q out almost every day after she was 6 weeks old for short walks around our neighborhood. Since it was winter, I bundled her up in her Bundle Me inside her stroller and she was warmer than I was in my J. Crew wool jacket. But often in Cabarete, people looked at me in panic about having my 2 month old outside. Apparently there’s a thing here where most people don’t take their kids out for the first 40 days of life. Q arrived here on day 58. “Is that okay?” they’d ask. “Should she be out like that?” “So small.” Maybe they thought Q was smaller than she was. Our housekeeper told us most people keep them inside because there’s a lot of wind and sun, which can bother little babies. Makes sense. But we kept her covered under hats, sunscreen, lightweight blankets or wraps while outside. The only thing harming my child was your fear of the outdoors, mis amigos.
- Call the local doctors at your location, just for peace of mind.
We SHOULD have done this on day one. We forgot—until that scary choking incident. We knew there was a brand new medical center located ten minutes from where we were staying, and an urgent care clinic a 6 minute walk away. But when Q started screaming bloody murder, a cry so loud and strong that she actually stopped breathing and turned red for longer than a millisecond, we panicked. My mind went blank as I smacked Q on her back until her airway cleared and she returned to her normal shade. “SHALL I CALL A DOCTOR!?!?” E frantically offered. But we realized then that we didn’t have the medic’s number in our phones, and we didn’t know exactly where the urgent care clinic was on the main road. We rectified both issues immediately: we put the number of the main medical center, urgent care and a pediatrician in the next town in our Favorites list in our phones to access quickly, and figured out how to dial 911 in Cabarete (ahem, you dial 9-1-1, just like at home). The next morning, we walked to the urgent care center and introduced ourselves and Q to the staff. We felt relieved that medical staff knew exactly who we were should we need to call for help.
- Book an apartment with the amenities of home, versus a sleek luxury hotel (or at least ask ahead to verify the room’s amenities).
E and I had all of the fixings of home–microwave, full sized stove, refrigerator, pots, pans, sharp knives–by renting an apartment. It felt just like our Brooklyn place, except with a better view. But there was a luxury hotel in the middle of the bay that we would go to to have lunch and sit by the pool. Thinking the amenities must be just as great inside the hotel, we booked a room for a few nights. But when we saw the room only had a small kitchenette and did not include a microwave or mini stovetop to heat or sterilize bottles, we ended up staying back at our apartment. There’s $300 we won’t see again. Lesson learned–call ahead to check the hotel amenities before you book.
- Your child will adapt much faster than you will. They like routine, but they don’t care what that routine is, so long as it’s consistent. You want to change formula? Change the place she sleeps from her crib at home to a pack n play on the road? Fine. Just keep feeding and nap time at the same time each day.